SEO implications of poker sites being shut down by the FBI
Most of you will have heard the story about how the FBI has shut down several of the largest online poker websites as part of a money laundering investigation. This is clearly big news as these sites are no longer able to trade until this investigation is complete.
The actual story is very very complicated and beyond the scope of this article for me to explain but the result is very interesting from an SEO perspective. A search for “online poker” in Google.com shows the first 3 results are to dead sites – there is no way that the Google algorithm will allow them to stay at the top for very long. When a site has some downtime or a temporary change that renders it “unoptimised” then Google normally keeps the rankings for a week or so. I’m expecting these sites to disappear over the next few days.
Long term the damage is going to be huge. Online poker is a huge keyword and if the sites are offline for months I bet that they sites will struggle to regain rankings for it in a 12 month period.
The lesson to be learnt here is that .com domains are perhaps a risky thing to have for a UK business.
A summary of the story is below, via Ars Technica:
Online gambling technically became illegal in the US starting in 2006, when legislators barred wire transfers, “payment system instruments,” and credit cards from being used as payment methods for online gambling sites. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t stop many gambling sites from running offshore operations and continuing to grow. Full Tilt Poker, for example, has grown large enough that it regularly sponsors players at the World Series of Poker. The domains of popular poker sites are no secret among online gambling aficionados.
According to the DoJ, however, 11 defendants behind these poker companies used fraudulent methods to trick payment processors like Visa and MasterCard into accepting payments from US users. Members from all three poker sites allegedly “arranged” for payments to be processed for things like jewelry and golf balls.
The DoJ claims that the poker companies were able to accept “billions of dollars” in payments this way, but not without the help of co-conspirators who helped to open up cover-up bank accounts in order to store the money. These people allegedly created fake corporations and websites in order to disguise the payments, using whatever names “the processor can get approved by the bank.”